The Prime Minister of Italy, Mario Draghi, reached out to Paola Egonu on Sunday to express support for her after the Black volleyball player threatened to stop representing the national team because of racial abuse.
According to The Associated Press, a video that was circulated on Saturday after the Italian national volleyball team’s victory over the United States to finish third at the world volleyball championship, showed Egonu having a tearful conversation with her agent.
“You can’t understand, you can’t understand. It’s my last match in the national team,” Egonu could be heard saying. “They asked me why I was Italian … I’m tired.”
Whoever Egonu was talking about couldn’t be immediately established. But on Sunday, Italian volleyball federation president Giuseppe Manfredi said that the Black volleyball star was subjected to racial abuse on social media after Brazil defeated them in the semifinal game on Thursday.
In the wake of the alleged abuse, the office of the Premier shared a tweet offering support to the 23-year-old star.
“Full support to the volleyball champion Paola Egonu from President Draghi in this morning’s phone call,” Sunday’s tweet said. “The national athlete is a source of pride for Italian sport, she will have future chances to win more trophies wearing the national team shirt.”
And though Egonu appeared to change her mind later on Saturday, she expressed her desire to step back from her duties with the national team.
“I’m very tired at the moment, I could take a break from the national team, I’m not saying I’m going to leave it though,” she told TV Rai. “There are those who say I don’t deserve to be on the national team, but my dream is to be on the podium with this team.
“At the moment what I feel is that I need to take a step backwards, I hope that I’ll rethink this in a few months, because we still have a lot to do with this national team. I’ll let you know in January.”